By Thomas F. O'Neill
Fundamentalism is dangerous . . .
The other day I was browsing the Internet searching for interesting videos to watch. I came across a youtube video of a self proclaimed minister blaming the Muslims for all of society’s ills. That wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in terms of entertainment.
The video did, however, prompt me to write some of my thoughts on Islam. I wish I could have talked to that person who made that video in person. I would have told him some interesting facts about Islam.
I would have certainly mentioned that when the Christians were experiencing the dark ages due to their belief that the only knowledge that is necessary is derived from biblical scriptures. The Muslims were writing about Plato, Aristotle, and other great Philosophers. It was the Muslims deep thirst for knowledge and wisdom that preserved some of the early literature of antiquities greatest philosophers.
Most contemporary Historians - but not all - believe that during the dark ages the Christians burned the library of Alexandria in Egypt. The Christian Fundamentalists at that time believed the library contained heretical and unenlightened literature. The literature that was housed in that library for safe keeping was lost forever due to ignorance.
The library of Alexandria contained hundreds of thousands of scrolls, literature, and knowledge of the ancient world’s greatest thinkers and literary geniuses. The Christians at that time however believed the bible contained all the knowledge that was necessary for mans salvation. That belief resulted in the burning of the library and the loss of a treasure-trove of knowledge.
In spite of that tragic event in Alexandria knowledge of the Greek Philosophers and other great literature were preserved by the early Muslim scholars. They also preserved the writings of early Christian theologians that were declared heretics by the early Christian churches including some of the early Gnostic texts.
If it wasn’t for the keen intellect of the early Muslim’s the writings of Plato, the metaphysics of Aristotle and early Christian literature would be a mystery. We would be speculating today and debating on what they believed.
There is a particular Islamic sect known as the Sufis who believe that all knowledge is sacred because the human intellect is ours for the enhancement of humanity. Saint Francis of Assisi was greatly influenced by the Sufi belief system. He and the Sufis believed that the spirit of god is implicit and can be intrinsically known by all people no matter what their religious beliefs may be.
The Sufis and Saint Francis of Assisi’s personal beliefs stood in total contrast to mainstream Islam and the Catholic Church’s teachings at that time. The Sufis where trying to bring spirituality into the Islamic faith by living and communicating their spirituality altruistically. Saint Francis of Assisi was trying to accomplish a similar mission within the Catholic Church of his day.
It was during the Christians second Crusade against the Muslims in the 12th century that Saint Francis of Assisi walked into the Muslim camps without harm. He talked to the Muslims about the Sufi beliefs and how similar they were to his own.
Saint Francis was revered by both Muslims and Christians alike due to his spirituality and his implicit understanding that if you want to be understood you must touch the hearts of others. He did not accomplish his mission by imposing his will and beliefs upon others. He simply lived his life as he would want others to live their lives, in doing so, others embraced and emulated his way of life. The Sufi Muslims had a similar mission to bring about peace in the world through a genuine and authentically lived spirituality.
The video I saw presented Islam as nothing more than fanatical fundamentalists. On the contrary, there are many good and spiritual followers of Islam. That being said we cannot judge all of Christianity because of the Christians that lived during the time of the crusades or the burning of the library of Alexandria. Also, we mustn’t judge all of Christianity by the actions and beliefs of contemporary Christian Fundamentalists.
Fundamentalism is dangerous – it forces ill willed people to live their lives ignorantly due to a lack of spiritual insight and a narrow minded belief system. You can find these extremists in every religion throughout history. We mustn’t, however, judge an entire religion by those ignorant factions within the religion.
Our religion can be shaped by our parents and by our parents' parents, but our spirituality is what we are born with. Spirituality is the spark, the essence, and the spirit that sustains us and all things. It’s beyond rituals and religious symbols because it’s the core of our existence. True Spirituality is the torch that lights the way not religious principles that are imposed or mandated on others. It is lived and expressed freely in ones character for others to emulate and embrace.
I did not write this with the intent of offending the religious, I wrote this as a way of expressing how religious beliefs and differences separate people. On the other hand spirituality can and does unite those who are searching for an altruistic way of life.
There are Modern Psychologists that would agree with me when I say it is best to seek and experience the essence of life and communicate who we truly are to others. Because, our meaning and purpose in life is truly defined by how well we live our life in communion with others.
Our highest reward will not be handed to us by some divine will but rather it will be achieved by how well or how far we develop in life. Our life’s path is purely determined by the power of choice. What we do with our life and how far we develop in life is purely determined by our thoughts and actions. Fools strive for the possessions they do not have - but wish to gain - here on earth or in the afterlife. The wise on the other hand develop what they already posses within themselves.
Always with love, from Suzhou, China.
Thomas F. O’Neill
China Cell: 8615114565945
Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links below.